July 5th, 2015
After spending another lazy day by the pool in Arles, followed by dinner next to a 90 AD amphitheater, we packed up the car for our last morning in Provence and headed to the picturesque rock plateau village of Les Baux de Provence in the Alpilles region.
Affording views over the Alpilles, Arles, and the Camargue, the village of Les Baux de Provence sits 250 meters up providing a superb defensive, dominant position to those who have inhabited the area since 6000 BC. Considered one of France’s most beautiful villages, it is quite popular with tourists so visit earlier in the day if you wish to escape the crowds!
The village itself is a nest of winding cobblestoned streets lined with tourist knickknack shops selling everything from soap to postcards to herb de provence mustard, gelaterias, and shaded cafes leading up to the entrance of the Chateau des Baux-de-Provence where you can wander the plateau and walk among the ruins of the medieval castle and the dungeon tower admiring the endless views. However, the best sight of the day was a backpacker with a French baguette sticking out the side of his bedroll. Only in France!
With the option of an accompanied audio guide, the Chateau also offers demonstrations each day of crossbow shooting, catapult shooting, and traditional blacksmith and stonemasons working on their craft. Dan and I were like little kids clambering up the narrow, uneven steps to reach the top of the tower, ducking our heads to explore carved away ruins, and having too much fun playing around with the wooden handcuffs. Now where is the lock on this thing?
When buying your admission ticket for the Chateau, opt for the combination ticket which also gets you entrance to the Carrieres de Lumieres (quarry of lights), a unique multimedia show where vast images are projected onto the immense limestone walls, pillars, and floor of the quarry, all accompanied to perfectly timed classical music. Just five minutes walk down hill from the village, it was a deliciously cool retreat from the 38 degree Celsius temps. We were in awe of the immense darkened space the second we walked in.
The theme changes yearly, with 2015 being ‘Giants of the Renaissance’, and soon masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Raphael’s School of Athens began dancing along the white stone walls. We had never seen anything like it before and it instantly became one of our favorite experiences of the trip.